Aster rolls out data warehousing appliances

Pricing starts at $50,000 for up to 1TB of data

Seeking to cater to more customer tastes in the increasingly crowded market for large-scale data warehousing and analysis, startup Aster Data Systems on Monday announced a new series of appliances that combine Aster's nCluster database and hardware in a preconfigured package.

An entry-level Express Edition for handling up to 1TB of data costs US$50,000, but pricing wasn't available for Enterprise Edition configurations, which range from 1TB to a petabyte of data.

While the appliances are compatible with a range of BI (business intelligence) tools, Aster is offering optional add-ons, including a BI bundle from Microstrategy and data-modeling software from AquaFold.

Aster's nCluster database, which was already available in on-premise and on-demand form, has support for MapReduce, a programming technique first developed by Google for parallel processing of large data sets.

The appliances use commodity Dell hardware, meaning they are both cost-effective and "compute-rich," Aster said in a statement.

The new products, which will compete with the likes of Netezza and Teradata, are likely aimed at a different customer base from Aster's initial clients, which include MySpace, said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. Those companies have employed Aster for tasks such as large-scale Web traffic analytics.

"I don't see why those users would find an appliance particularly appealing," he said.

Aster's appliance -- which, like appliances in general, simplifies configuration chores -- might instead be more appealing for other users, such as a small workgroup of analysts inside a company crunching a smaller set of data, he said.

The announcement shared the spotlight Monday with news from other players in the data warehousing market, which has heated up in recent years.

Startup ParAccel reported a fresh round of venture capital funding, and Oracle touted a series of customer wins for its Database Machine appliance, co-developed with Hewlett-Packard.

But not all vendors are faring well in the competitive space, where technological demands grow constantly in response to the rising data volumes faced by customers. Cambridge, Massachusetts, startup Dataupia recently shed a significant portion of its staff and is in search of new funding.

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